By Brian Halliley, Intern at Hospice Inc. Poughkeepsie, NY
In my time as an undergrad, I wasn’t sure where I fit in to the big picture of music therapy, which population I wanted to work with, much less what my real philosophy was. Being in school allowed time to experiment hands-on and gain some experience in safe clinical environment, but in my first couple of years of pre-clinic I didn’t feel like I found my niche. My anxiety only grew in realizing that at some point down the road I would have to make a decision of what population I would have to work with for six months straight. Luckily, the one saving grace through all of this happened as I would go to the national and regional conferences over my time at Nazareth. They helped give me a real taste of the options that were out there, while taking a nice break from the regimented school environment. As I started to take a step back and look at what really kept my interest, it sparked a real curiosity about hospice and palliative care.
I’ve always had a difficult time with skill building, which is what many populations focus on. Hospice, on the other hand, focused on improving quality of life and reducing pain and anxiety. It also was suited to a one on one approach, interacting directly with the client instead of a group of individuals with similar diagnoses. This allows for an incredible amount of focus to be paid on the client, watching for everything from their verbal responses, to their emotional reactions, and even physical responses like breathing rate, facial expressions, and body position or movement, watching for any changes as they happen. The setup seemed to play right to my strengths, and helped me when it came time to make the decision of what kind of internship to apply to. In the end, I had to make the leap and apply with no more experience than what I witnessed in those sessions at music therapy conferences. As I was applying, I started to question how I would react to the most serious part of the population, which is enough to deter many people; being a part of the dying process.
Now looking back, I’m glad I took the risk. In my original interview for Hospice Inc. (where I am in the second month of interning), my supervisor explained things in a way that really helped calm my nerves, and solidified my decision to go for it. It isn’t a field for everyone. If the thought of the dying process scares you, or brings you to tears every time without fail, don’t go against your instincts by putting yourself through it. But, if you feel that you want to help give back precious quality life to those who don’t have much time to spare, and love to work with people and all their experiences that they share with you, then I strongly recommend considering a hospice placement for your internship. You won’t regret it.